Rule 3 of becoming a great place to work: Make your clients love you

“Make your clients love you: Client satisfaction” is part 3 in a blog series: 
 6 extraordinary ways to be a great place to work

We recognized early on that when customers are satisfied with the services we provide, we’re only halfway successful. A discounted offer from another provider may be all it takes to lure away our passively content clients. And as every business leader knows, customer loyalty is the difference between a success story and a failure.

NetGain Technologies is all about client happiness. In fact, our vision statement we repeat as a group is “Creating Happy Clients Through Effective Managed Service Solutions”. In a hypercompetitive services industry, holding on to great clients cannot be an afterthought. It requires nothing short of a fanatical focus on client satisfaction. That also means direct listening from the front line employee all the way to the CEO.

The old rule of thumb is that it costs five times as much to earn a new client as it does to retain an existing one. I say that’s a dangerous underestimation. I’d happily trade 20 good prospects for a single client who marks us a “10” on the Net Promoter scale (more on that here).

I urge you to make sure every member of your organization, from bottom to top, knows the value of active customers and is vigilant about keeping them happy. “Client Loyalty” should be a key responsibility of every employee within your organization.

Purposeful actions and a fanatical focus

Client retention doesn’t have a magic formula. Some practices may work better with different client types or within specific industries.

Two retention programs have been central to our success with customers—some of whom have been with us for a quarter-century or longer.

VIP Client Gifts

Receiving a thoughtful gift is always a bright spot in your day—and that’s a feeling we want our clients to experience regularly. We have a small team that plans ahead to send gifts to our top clients. Often it’s something recreational that an executive might enjoy outside of the office. I love learning more about what our clients are passionate about, because it helps us to identify a meaningful gift. We’re also big fans of seasonal fruits and sweet treats, so we share these frequently.

Depending on the client and the gifts we choose, we will send out packages two or three times each year. If you’d like to start a similar practice for your VIP clients, I’d suggest adding a field for personal notes into your customer database. (That way you don’t send nuts to the CEO with a peanut allergy, and you will remember that the CFO prefers ballroom dancing to golf.) Make sure to avoid any marketing messages when you send these gifts—but be prepared to receive some follow-up notes with questions your clients “have been meaning to ask.” These gifts really do serve as a conversation starter, and that’s a great side benefit.

Client Appreciation Events

With branch locations in seven cities throughout the Southeast and Midwest, NetGain Technologies has clients spread out across the map. Phone calls and office visits are great, but having some fun together helps to keep the relationship working. (If that logic sounds familiar, it may be because it’s the same reason we have employee trips.)

Every year, we host events in each region where we have several clients. We’ll invite several client executives and their spouses or guests to join us for an evening of entertainment, food, and conversation. Some of our popular outings have been an evening at the races—Churchill Downs, Oak Lawn, and Keeneland are all in cities where we work. Other well-liked events are a ball game or a music festival. This year we’ll bring groups to watch the Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals and to enjoy live music at the Riverbend Festival.

For each occasion, we reserve a private space where our guests are able to enjoy food, drinks, and the main event. This unique experience allows our team to relate with customers on a more personal level as we show our appreciation to them for making NetGain Technologies their trusted I.T. partner.

Clients tell us they love these events because they get to have a night out and they enjoy the opportunity to network with other area business leaders. My suggestion for vendors wanting to plan client events is to think big (if it’s not exciting, your invitation will receive more regrets than acceptances) and plan small (that is, don’t let forgotten details put a blemish on a client outing).

Client satisfaction, employee satisfaction

If you’re wondering how an article about a happy clientele fits into a series about being a great place to work, I promise the correlation is direct. Happy clients equates to happy employees.

Think about the stress of dealing with unhappy customers. The inefficient use of time when you or an employee has to mend client relationships. The “one step forward, two steps back” pressure of having to find new clients to replace those who have left.

Moreover, that equation is reciprocal—if employees are happy, they treat clients better, making them happier and more likely to stick with you. It’s an amazing, self-perpetuating cycle.

So, that’s the big secret to our success with clients and a great reason our employees stay happy. Next month, I’ll continue the series 6 extraordinary ways to be a great place to work with one of my favorite topics: the BHAG. Here’s a list of the full series:

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